Treats for the poor

If you’re not living in dire poverty, you probably found yourself having recourse to little treats throughout this pandemic, to cheer yourself and your family up. Maybe you splurged on a tasty but extravagant snack or dessert, or something to brighten up the house, or a new book or movie or game you’ve been wanting. Little treats can’t fix the problem, but they can make it more tolerable.

It’s not that they’re hugely important in themselves, but they help because they remind us that, even though so much of our day is clouded and burdened with problems and anxiety, there is still good in the world, still sweetness, still calm, still satisfaction.

Little treats also remind us that we’re worth putting a little bit of effort into, and that our current state of misery and distress is not normal and not desirable, but should be remedied.

Well, my friends. Whether there’s a pandemic on or not, why not give little treats to the poor? Why not offer them small, unnecessary consolations, just because they’re poor, and that sucks, and it will cheer them up to have a little treat?

It’s very common for financially comfortable people to have a conscious or unconscious policy of denying even the smallest of treats to the poor. I think some folks don’t even realize they harbor these thoughts, but they believe deep down that it’s okay for comfortable people to give themselves little treats as a consolation when times are hard, but it’s somehow not okay for poor people to enjoy the same. That there’s something unhealthy or unhelpful or unseemly about the poor receiving any charity beyond the bare necessities.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

Image by frankieleon via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Sweet mamas, don’t forget to carve out time for these few essentials

Got a new baby? Along with all the joy and fun that comes with welcoming a new child into your home, you will notice some other, unwelcome arrivals: tons and tons of unsolicited advice about how to run your life. Everyone has an opinion about what is really important, and much of this advice conflicts with or contradicts other advice, leaving a new mother feeling confused and overwhelmed.

Be at peace, new mama. There are really only a few essentials to keep in mind, in order to live your life in a happy, healthy, even joyful way.

First of all, remember that self-care is essential. Mothers are expected to care for everyone around them, but how can they do this if they are falling apart themselves? Remember to carve out a small amount of time every day just for you. This might sound selfish, but is it selfish when a car needs gas in its tank?  You must take care of yourself if you want to do your job right.

An essential part of self care is your spiritual life. Mothers are the cornerstone of society, and we simply can’t bear that burden alone. Prayer strengthens us to take on the physical and emotional tasks we face every day (and on through the night!), so it is essential to carve out some time every day for prayer. When we neglect our prayer life, it’s only a matter of time before everything else we attempt will become a shambles. And nobody likes a shambles. 

Speaking of shambles, scientists have shown that order and cleanliness are actually essential to our mental well-being. Chaos and disorder may seem like the easy way out, but they actually make it harder to make decisions and think clearly, which are essential for day-to-day survival in this challenging time. So be sure to carve out some time to straighten up your environment each day, and don’t skip the corners. Don’t be afraid to really scrub hard, and don’t skimp on the bleach. You’ll thank yourself later!

But we can’t always wait for delayed gratification. Sometimes immediate relief is essential, so be sure you’re getting some exercise. Studies have shown that even short bursts of physical movement throughout the course of the release endorphins that go a long way toward keeping our moods stable, our skin clear, our hearts healthy, and our eyes bright and our minds twinkly. Even if you don’t have a full, uninterrupted hour to spare, make it a point to carve out twenty minutes here and there, all day long, all week long, starting right this minute, and really push yourself.  Really push hard. No, even harder than that. Remember the shambles.

You’ll also find regular exercise gives you more energy to do something that is absolutely essential: putting in some one-on-one time with your other kids. It’s all too easy for them to feel displaced and neglected when the new baby comes, so it is essential to carve out some special time to connect with them, consistently and intentionally, academically, emotionally, spiritually, and just for some plain old silly old hands-in mommy-and-me fun, or else they will grow up to be crack whores.

Naturally, kids aren’t the only ones who crave and need connection. Did you know that 84% of new dads are unfaithful in the first four hours after their wives give birth, all because the women who vowed to love them weren’t willing to carve out some time to keep that spark of romance alive? After all, your children are important, but your marriage is a sacrament. A sacrament! A SACRAMENT. Come on. What is the matter with you. 

And what woman can even think about romance when she doesn’t feel pretty?  It is essential that you look pretty. Look prettier! With your hair and your makeup and your clothes, including a flattering, properly-fitted bra that is easy to nurse in, because it is essential to normalize public breastfeeding, which is beautiful, but also don’t be a big weirdo about it, because that is not attractive. If you’re not attractive, the world will see your eye bags and your hip bags and your bag bags, and they think that babies make women ugly, and that will be the end of babies, and there will be darkness and void over the face of the earth, and also crack whores. Carve. Out. Time.

Last but not least: enjoy your baby. Oh sweet mamas, these precious days are so fleeting, so don’t forget to carve out some time for joy. Joy time is essential and there just isn’t enough of it. Seriously, time is running out for joy. Set an alarm and get that joy in. 

And that’s it! Just carve out time for these few, simple essentials, and you’ll find that everything else that you need to do just falls into place.


 A version of this post originally ran at the National Catholic Register in 2015. 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Five pieces of advice for pastors (and a thank-you)

Last week, a priest responded to the article “Five Rules for a Royal Bride” with a humble request: “I wish Catholics in the pews would write us new pastors and new ordained priests advices like these! Y’all help us to be men of God, men for others, and men that have joy in their lives! Send me your five advices before I become pastor . . .”

Can do.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image by photographer Matthew Lomanno, part of his visual essay North Country Priest. Used with permission.